Thursday, April 26, 2012

See the Funny Little Clown

I write about baseball. I write about it a lot. I also tweet a lot on Twitter...mostly about baseball. The writing is meant to be entertaining and insightful. I think I carry that off most of the time. In fact, I will go so far to say that I am pretty decent at it. But while my writing tries to be upbeat and entertaining, lately it is a bit like an old Bobby Goldsboro song, "See the Funny Little Clown." One of the lyrics of that song seems poignant to me right now, "No one knows he's dying on the inside, cause he's laughing on the outside." I can't laugh tonight even on the outside.

I get very sensitive when people like Josh Hamilton and that Bush kid fall down. I take it personal. I have been around addiction all my life. My father wrapped himself around a tree with his car when I was ten years old. My mom then married a blowhard alcoholic who was alternately the life of the party and then a mean drunk. It was just the opposite of The Brady Bunch. My former mother-in-law was in rehab for alcohol three times in her life before she almost died and saw the light. My son almost got hooked on the bottle until he saw the light as well. But then I remarried.

We were both just fresh from divorces. Hers included abuse. She had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy chose to stay with his father, unfortunately not the wisest of choices for him. The girl came with us. When I first met the girl, she was just nine years old. She had the cutest little waif way about her. She took to me right away. We had fun together. We laughed a lot. After the marriage, the little girl had some things to work through emotionally. Her old life was ripped away and she had to start a new one with us. She took it out on me.

I understood perfectly. I had been where she was. So I waited. I was patient. I was kind. I was consistent. She came around. She became my daughter and I became her father. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, she met a boy. He lived a few blocks away. They became inseparable. He was at our house more than he wasn't. They were so cute together. They had snowball fights and built snowmen. They laughed and goofed around. They were always giggling together. They were friends first and then they became more than that.

The boy had trouble at home and started staying at our house. He ate meals with us. He became a part of the family. He was a part of our Christmases and Thanksgivings. But something happened after a while and it must have happened gradually, because both my wife and I missed it.

It did not really become clear until they both came to work for me at the software company where I served as the customer service manager. I hired them for the busy season and put them on the phones and on chat. They both made lots of money.

One day, another member of my team came to my office and wanted to talk to me. He sat down and told me that he saw my step-daughter at a party and she was grinding pills and ingesting them through her nose. I did the first thing that most parents do. I went in denial.  I thanked this fellow and sort of asked her about it. She denied it. I believed her.

But by the end of the busy season when I had to lay them off, they didn't have a dime between them. I confronted them in her bedroom and they both admitted that it all went to drugs. Things spiraled downward from there. She kept getting arrested. She stole. She lied. She embezzled. And who knows what else to get what she needed. The boy went off to college.

Things in the house started disappearing. She stole from us. Undesirables kept coming to the house. The police came several times looking for her and asking us questions. Our losses went into the thousands. We both tried to help her. We both tried getting angry and pleading with her. We lost. She lost. She started shooting heroin. After conning another man out of thousands of dollars and robbing another one of several hundreds, I finally did what I had to do. I kicked her out of the house and told her she couldn't come back. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

That was four years ago. At the same time, I lost my job. The company got bought out and moved to Georgia. I was asked to go but had a daughter from my previous marriage and it meant leaving her and missing a good part of the rest of her childhood. Growing up without a dad made me decide to stay.

I started my own publishing business. I also tried to get other jobs. The publishing business produced fine work, but it crashed and burned a month ago and is on a do not resuscitate order. Nobody would hire me. I've gone bankrupt and will soon put the house up for sale. But that's not the worst part.

The worst part is that this girl I loved...this girl whose addiction caused her to cheat and steal from her own family, whose addiction took away her soul and all sense of right and wrong, kept doing drugs. She went to another state and hasn't stopped. She hasn't worked since I laid her off all those years ago. Her mother and I shudder to think what she has had to do to get what she needs. She is still lost and all we can hope for is a miracle someday before we get a phone call we both dread.

Her boyfriend...did go off to college. But his addiction continued. You should have met these two when they were thirteen. They had bright eyes and were smart and fun and creative. He played guitar. He was polite and respectful. He was a nice boy. Until he wasn't. Until she wasn't.

I had run into his father on occasion and kept up on the boy. The father would talk about his continued addiction and the trouble he got into. Then the father seemed to have a breakthrough. The boy agreed to go through sobriety. The father went through it with him. I was hopeful for him. I would never trust this boy again, nor allow him in our home, but I was hopeful he would pull his life together. It looked like he was doing so.

I hadn't spoken to the father in quite some time. And today my wife went to the store and saw the newspaper. The boy's picture was in the paper. He was missing. He had gone to this party/concert site, an amateur affair where bands would play for each other and whoever else showed up. He was supposed to play at eleven o'clock in the evening. He didn't show up. The rangers searched. His parents searched. Helicopters searched. His friends searched.

They found him this morning. Dead at 24. There were no answers thus far. There was no foul play. But we can put all the information together to know that whatever happened did because he had fallen off again. My wife cried. I felt loss. My wife called her daughter. She screamed. Who knows what this will do to her. Will she go further off the deep end? Will it shake her out of her senses? Will we be next? It is probably the most scared for her I've ever been. And I am scared for her mother who has had enough pain over this child to last five lifetimes.

I am sensitive to people who are so harsh with addicts. People have no idea how evil these addictions are. They have no idea of how evil the people are who feed these addictions and prey off them. They have no clue of the pain addiction causes. The anger. The frustration. The sense of loss. The guilt. I understand Josh Hamilton. I have met him in our daughter and in her first boyfriend...her first love.

So I am not laughing on the outside tonight. It has been so long since I have had good news that hope is a distant thing. I am depressed. I know it is clinical. Life is a hole I can't seem to climb out of. But I still have life. I still have a wife I adore and who loves me. I still have a beautiful daughter who, as of now, still sparkles with life. Her stepsister used to look like that. I wish she still did. I may be down. But I am not a quitter. But this boy who was a part of my family for years won't have a chance to keep fighting. He lost his battle. Dead at 24. Rest in peace, son. Rest in peace.

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